Pilot reports of close calls with drones soar: FAA

Washington, Aug 17 (IANS) Reports of drone sightings by US pilots in the country in 2015 so far have been more than double of last year’s, the Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA) has said, raising concerns that a fatal collision may occur if regulations continue to fall short of requirements.

There have already been at least 650 reports of drone sightings this year by August 9, while in all of 2014, a total of 238 of sightings were reported by US pilots within the country, Xinhua news agency quoted FAA as saying.

In a statement issued earlier this week, the FAA said pilots of different types of aircraft, including large, commercial air carriers, reported spotting 16 unmanned aircraft in June of 2014, and 36 the following month. However, this year, 138 pilots reported seeing drones at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet in June and another 137 in July.

As the western part of the country is bracing itself for wildfire blazes, the FAA said firefighters were also frequently forced to ground their operations for safety reasons when they spotted one or more unmanned aircraft in their immediate vicinity.

According to the US forest service, drones had already interfered with aircraft fighting at least 13 wildfires so far this year.

Amid the increasing number of drone sightings by pilots, the US department of transportation is reviewing whether FAA has the authority to require drones to be registered.

Currently, drones are considered hobby aircraft and are exempt from registration because they are banned from flying over 400 feet.

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